It wouldn't be a Caribbean Christmas without black cake, and more treats
December 24, 2017 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Black cake is a rich, molasses-spiced cake filled with drunken dried fruits is a part of Christmas festivities throughout the Caribbean. NPR cites a recipe that includes "currants, raisins, cherries, prunes and the peels of oranges and lemons [that] are soaked in rum and wine for roughly six months in airtight jars, in order for the fruit to become properly saturated for the cake," while Chowhound says you only have to let the fruit macerate for 1 week before proceeding with the recipe, and the Washington Post allows for 2 days to a full year to soak the dark fruits. But the key ingredient in the black cake is burnt sugar syrup, which can be used in an Old Fashioned. More recipes below the break.

If that's too much alcohol, Chowhound has a collection of "shockingly tasty fruitcake" recipes for your (non)seasonal enjoyment.

For more Caribbean Christmas flavors, Condé Naste Traveler has a slideshow of eight Caribbean food traditions, simplifying a broad and diverse region into a short list, which you can more easily access below:
  1. Sorrel drink recipe from Vegetarian Times, which offers tea bags as an alternative to dried sorrel or red hibiscus flowers, while Caribbean Pot offers a more traditional, and detailed, recipe
  2. Turrón de Navidad: A Spanish Almond and Honey Candy for Christmas from Nourished Kitchen, and for a second take, A Cuban Christmas Must: Turrón de Coco, from Ana "Hungry" Sofia Pelaez
  3. Arroz con Dulce, or rice with sweet, a recipe from El Boricua, as CNT only described the dish
  4. Anis del Mono, a Christmas drink tradition in the Dominican Republic
  5. Arroz con Gandules (rice and peas) from Cook like a Jamaican
  6. Whole roasted suckling pig, a recipe adapted from Jose Garces on Chowhound
  7. Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Eggnog) from Alejandra Ramos on Always Order Dessert
  8. And black cake
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
I went straight to the burnt sugar syrup for old fashioneds link and am glad I did. Headed over to rice and peas next! Great post.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:59 AM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


oh man i have not had black cake since i was very very little and now i want it I M M E D I A T E L Y
posted by poffin boffin at 8:02 AM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


On St. Martin, Guavaberry rum is maybe the biggest Christmas tradition.
posted by snofoam at 8:05 AM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


The excellent Caribbean beef patty place down the street from me sells Christmas cake at this time of year. This is making me want to go buy one.

The burnt sugar syrup also sounds good. Last night I made whiskey sours using the crumbs from homemade sponge toffee in place of sugar, which was probably similar.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:20 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


You had me at soaking fruit for a week in alcohol. I just did this with my fruitcake fruits, and as usual, it turned out fabulous.

Every year I like to make an "alternative" fruitcake to go along with the one I've been making for the last 16 years. This year is something from The Splendid Table (the book, not the podcast), but I will probably research this one for 2018. Thank you!
posted by offalark at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Arroz con Gandules (rice and peas) from Cook like a Jamaican

This is pedantic and maybe contrary to the holiday spirit, but arroz con gandules, the Puerto Rican dish, is very different from rice and gungu peas, the Jamaican dish. They are both good, but they are not the same thing, despite both of them being made with rice and pigeon peas.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:38 AM on December 24, 2017 [6 favorites]


I still have never gotten up the courage to make it, but I think about rushthatspeaks' description of baking it all the time.
For the first few days of being jarred, the fruit looked like canned fruit cocktail, bright pieces peeking through a liquid. Then it suddenly and dramatically turned to brown, non-liquid sludge, overnight. Then every few days there would be an obvious inch or so of liquid on the top, which would be reabsorbed over a few days more, a process it has kept on doing. I have no idea why. The really interesting thing was that curled around the jar was suddenly one of the cat's favorite places. I leaned down and gave a good sniff, and I did get a very very faint hint of something rather Christmas-y, but it could also have been the cool roundness of the glass side attracting him. I wound up rearranging objects so he couldn't lie there, because I didn't want him to knock the thing over by mistake. He occasionally complains to me about this even now, because the jar being only half-full has not reduced its powers of cat-drawing.
posted by peppercorn at 8:39 AM on December 24, 2017 [13 favorites]


DO WANT
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 AM on December 24, 2017


This is pedantic and maybe contrary to the holiday spirit, but arroz con gandules, the Puerto Rican dish, is very different from rice and gungu peas, the Jamaican dish. They are both good, but they are not the same thing, despite both of them being made with rice and pigeon peas.

Thanks for the clarification, looks like I will be needing to have both. Do you have any other rice and pea based delicacies up your sleeve?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:14 AM on December 24, 2017


My sister was recently lured into a bakery blasting the Sugar Aloes’ siren song, Black Cake Lover. Now we are black cake lovers.
posted by ohkay at 9:36 AM on December 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


That's always been at the top of my list of things to do if I ever became rich: travel to a new place every Christmas and steep myself in the local customs. Well, as much as a foreigner can, anyway.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:46 AM on December 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


Definitely marking this recipe down for trying next year. The late mother-in-law of a friend of mine used to make a spectacular black cake, although I think she only took a month to do it. It was delicious, although as we found out one year, did not take well to icing.
posted by Fuchsoid at 10:40 AM on December 24, 2017


I saw the term Guyana Black Cake, and I went looking for it a couple of weeks ago, because my lady doctor is from Guyana, and I thought maybe by next year I can make her one for the holidays.
posted by Oyéah at 11:15 AM on December 24, 2017


If that's too much alcohol

DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Also, you're very, very lucky that tomorrow's Christmas and there's a lot of tasty stuff in the house and ready to be prepared for tomorrow, because otherwise I'd be compelled to track you down and demand you tell me that very instant where I can find one of these cakes and PUT IT IN MY FACE.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:21 AM on December 24, 2017


There may or may not be Guyanese Black Cake for us tomorrow, as our goddess of cake is Christmasing elsewhere, but I can continue to hope. I really should settle down and make my own next year, starting right after Halloween. I think I can make my own browning without burning down the kitchen. Probably.
posted by maudlin at 11:55 AM on December 24, 2017


I first heard of Black Cake when I read Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. (Which, by the way, is a wonderful book and well worth reading for reasons other than her fabulous recipes.) I've never made it, but my mother made black cake after a recipe of the mother of a Trinidadian friend. It was indeed delicious and much better than regular fruitcake, of which I'm not a big fan. Black cake though, that I enjoyed.

For those curious about Colwin's recipe:

Blog post with recipe
Blog posts by someone who tried making it this year: Part One and Part Two
Chowhound thread
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:36 PM on December 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm tempted to make some burnt sugar syrup to see how it would match up with espresso.
posted by dancing_angel at 3:43 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


I do not think we get Guyanese Black Cake this year, as no one felt like making it as my grandmother passed this year (but I have been assured that we get pepperpot, which is fine because it is not Christmas without pepperpot for breakfast, goddammit). I also salute any attempt to make your own, because that scares the hell out of me.
posted by ultranos at 4:20 PM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm tempted to make some burnt sugar syrup to see how it would match up with espresso.

I bet it would be tasty. I made a batch a little while ago - it’s way easy - and now we are drinking delicious cocktails with it as an ingredient. Go burn some sugar!
posted by rtha at 5:33 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


According to Harold McGee, you don't actually need high heat to caramelise sugar. Low heat over a long period (e.g., a layer of sugar in a lowish oven) will caramelise sugar without even melting it. I mention this only because making dark caramel is a pain, and it can splatter. Sugar burns are really nasty.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:58 AM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just tested this recently. If you have one of those whipped cream makers that use the NO2 cartridges you can do a speed maceration overnight.

Fill no more than 1/3 with fruit, cover in rum. Add one NO2 cartridge, 2 if you are sure it is safe with your device. Shake like crazy.

Next morning vent the gas and enjoy your fully infused fruit.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 2:05 PM on December 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Emily Dickinson's black cake.
posted by Melismata at 12:10 PM on December 26, 2017


I put sweet Raisins in my Cake
And Nutmegs--finely ground--
And when ‘twas mixed and poured and baked
I ate all twenty Pounds
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:54 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


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